USB Killer Attacks and How You Can Prevent Them

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As one of the world's most affordable and convenient data storage methods, we've grown used to the flexibility and portability of utilizing USB (Universal Serial Bus) sticks.

You may already be familiar with the risks of downloading data from suspicious places digitally, but did you know cyberattacks from physical sources can be just as damaging? Don't let its appearance fool you - USB drives are capable of carrying malware and even can be used as a way to permanently damage your computer's hardware.

Let's explore how a USB killer works and how you might approach preventing this kind of attack.

USB Killer attacks are a form of malicious attack that is used to cause damage to electronic devices, including permanent damage to PC hardware. Through a modified USB flash drive, the attack works by taking advantage of the USB connection port's ability to rapidly charge and discharge a large amount of electricity. By sending a high voltage current through the USB port (210-220 volts), physical damage can be dealt to the device's hardware, potentially frying its internal circuits and rendering it useless.

Originally developed as a pen-testing method to determine how well a device could withstand power surges, the technology has since been adopted by cybercriminals to take advantage of unsuspecting users in an effort to damage or destroy their devices. Other USB-based attacks are used to steal login credentials, and install ransomware, or spyware.

The producers of USB Killers claim to provide them to those who wish to check the vulnerability of their devices against such attacks, but the availability of this technology also unfortunately makes them available to those with malicious intentions.

It's a cheap and straightforward attack method that can even be deployed remotely. An advanced attack might be scheduled and executed from the criminal's mobile device (capable with products offered by USB Kill, the leading provider of this technology). Some USB killers are even built-in with a rechargeable battery, allowing the host device to be affected even if it's shut down.

Intentionally designed to mimic a normal USB device (such as a flash drive or a mouse), attacks of this method can be challenging to detect. You would have to physically open the device to assess that it's harmful. However, there are a few steps you can take to help protect your devices from these attacks.

Precautionary Measures

The most crucial step is to be aware of the potential danger and take precautions when connecting devices to your computer. Be sure to only connect USB devices that you trust and always check the device for any outwardly suspicious signs or indicators. Consider where and when you came across it, and only use devices that come from a trusted source. Never plug in a random device you found in public.

Security Awareness

Staff members of organizations play an essential in safeguarding computers from USB Killers, so your company must have ongoing cybersecurity training and reminders. It is also important to educate employees on the risk of connecting an unfamiliar USB drive to a company computer, as well as how USB Killers can be disguised as other common objects.

Enhanced Protection

To prevent USB Killer from entering a computer, a low-tech solution such as capping USB drives could be employed. This is the only way to physically block the device, however, it will also prevent any legitimate USB drives from being inserted.

You can also consider using a surge protector to protect your computer and other devices from unexpected power surges. This will prevent any accidental damage to your devices caused by a USB Killer attack. Precautionary measures such as disabling or hiding unused USB ports can be used to protect hardware. Although, this may be seen as more of a temporary solution and is not exactly ideal.

Another method of determining whether a USB drive is a USB Killer without taking it apart is by using a USB killer detector. Often a small and inexpensive device, it can detect USB Kill drives before they cause damage to hardware.

Some organizations have tried to regulate the use of external media, as it can lead to security issues. If not managed correctly, USB sticks can be used to upload files to the cloud, which potentially poses multiple risks, ranging from physical damage to the system to the potential of data loss.

The danger of USB Killers is an undeniable reality. It's important to take precautionary steps to protect your organization's data through increased awareness and security training.



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Posted by GAM Tech Team on Apr 4, 2023 9:50:51 AM

Topics: cybersecurity, usb, hardware

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